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Important to measure radon regardless of where you live

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In the UK, there are radon maps that show which areas are more exposed to radon and which are less exposed. Consequently, many people do not measure radon because they think they live in a radon-free area, but that is wrong. Almost all of UK is exposed to radon and considerable local differences can exist within the residential areas. That is confirmed by studies carried out by Radonova in which the results from the same residential area were examined. That is why it is always important to measure radon and not rely on radon maps.

Why are there such large local differences in radon content?

It is due to variations in radon in the ground and how buildings are constructed. Also what maintenance they have had and what rebuilding has taken place.

The levels of radon in the ground depend on factors such as the extent to which the elements uranium and radium are present in our rock types and therefore also our soil types. Radon gas is formed from these elements and is transported through the soil layer with the aid of air and ground water. This means, for example, that there is a greater risk of radon in buildings constructed on sand and gravel. These highly porous soil types contain large amounts of air that can easily transport radon up into buildings.

Important – Where does radon leak into houses?

Radon from the ground leaks into houses and apartment blocks in many different ways. Unsealed penetrations in the form of incoming electricity and water supplies enable radon to leak into the building. A concrete pad with cracks can also allow radon to leak in.

These causes mean that there can be considerable local variations in the radon content in residential areas. It is therefore always important to measure the radon content in indoor air, regardless of where you live and how you live – in a house or in an apartment building.

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How do you measure radon?

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Radon is a so-called “inert” gas that is also radioactive. In other words it emits ionising radiation. If people suffer excessive exposure to this radiation in their workplace or at home, it can lead to cell damage and therefore to cancer. It is estimated that up to 14% of all cases of lung cancer in the world are caused by radon. measurements are crucial.

Radon comes from the ground

Radon occurs naturally in the ground since it comes from uranium that decays. Buildings that have basements and that are otherwise in direct contact with the ground are most affected by radon.

Radon is measured using boxes

Radon is normally measured using what are referred to as “radon boxes”. These are small boxes that you place around the home or in the workplace for a certain period of time. This is to see the specific radon value in the specific rooms where the measurement is being carried out.

This means that it is best to place radon boxes in rooms where you spend a lot of time such as bedrooms and living rooms. In rooms in which you or people around you spend the most time, it may be worth placing two boxes in different parts of the room to obtain the most accurate measurement possible.

Quick measurement or long-term measurements

There are two different types of boxes that you can use for radon measurement. The first of these is the box that carries out long-term measurement that most people are familiar with. A so-called “long-term measurement” enables you to obtain an average annual value for radon levels in indoor air. It is only possible to carry out long-term measurements of radon during the winter months. This is because people do not ventilate as frequently as in summer, which concentrates the radon and, in turn, provides an optimum measurement. Long-term measurements take approximately two to three months and all you need to do is position the boxes. Then leave them there for the full period before sending them back.

For people who do not have the time required to carry out long-term measurements, there are also boxes that provide a quick measurement. These do not show the average amount of radon in a year, but can provide a quick indication of the property’s approximate exposure to radon. They are suitable for people who want to buy a house or another property. Quick measurements take up to 10 twenty-four hour periods and can be carried out at any time of year.

After the measurement

When the period of time for the selected boxes has ended, you simply send in the boxes. You then receive a full report on the results. This usually takes only one week to send out.

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Why is radon dangerous?

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dangerous

Radon measurement is often carried out when buying houses and properties. But what is radon and why do you need to measure it and why is it dangerous?

Radon is dangerous

Radon is an element with atomic number 86 and the chemical symbol of Rn. It is a so-called “inert” gas, which means that it exists in a gaseous state at room temperature and that the element radon does not readily react with other substances. However, radon gas is radioactive and decays naturally. When the radon decays, it emits ionising radiation containing dangerous alpha particles.

Ionising radiation

Ionisation means that electrons are removed from a nucleus by means of radiation, for example. The atoms, which were previously in equilibrium, then become charged ions which are able to react with other atoms or ions. Such reactions can damage and/or alter a DNA molecule and cause mutations or cancer or can kill cells. For that reason, ionising radiation, and therefore radon, is dangerous to humans.

Why are you exposed to radon in a building?

Radon in its normal form exists as a gas. You’d therefore presume that airing the building would get the radon out. Some types of radon problem are solved through simple ventilation. But, unfortunately, the gas fills up constantly if a building is constructed on ground that causes radon gas to form.

Radon derives from a “decay chain”, i.e. other radioactive substances decay and form new substances. Uranium and radium, two radioactive elements that exist in certain types of bedrock, are present earlier in this chain. In areas with high uranium levels or radium-rich ground, the risk of so-called “soil radon” will be higher. Radon is particularly common in buildings with basements because the walls are more exposed to the surrounding ground.

Long-term effects and radiation doses

Elevated radon levels in a building can cause an increased risk of cancer particularly lung cancer. When you live and spend a lot of time in the building, radon can gradually cause harm. However, the risk is very small for non-smokers. Currently the recommended radon level is less than 300 Bq/m3 in rooms in which you spend a lot of time (WHO recommends no more than 100 Bq/m3). If the value is higher, you should take action to deal with the radon problem, for example through ventilation or sealing against incoming radon from the soil.

Questions and answers about radon in water

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SSM (The Swedish Radiation Safety Authority) has recently published the National Radon Action Plan. Radon in drinking water has been highlighted as one of the risks. As the world’s leading radon laboratory, Radonova Laboratories AB gets a lot of questions about water safety. Below you can find some answers to the most common inquiries we receive on this subject.

Can we find radon in drinking water?

Radon in drinking water can occur primarily in water from wells bored down through solid rock. In Sweden, wells supply water to approximately 800,000 people. More than 6% of these wells are estimated to have such high levels of radon as to be hazardous to health. This means that radon concentrations in these waters may exceed the limit of 1000 Bq l-1, while 60% of wells are in the range of 100-1000 Bq l-1. There is also a risk of elevated radon levels in water wells bored down through soil layers. Data from the SGU (Swedish Geological Survey)shows that 1.6% of these wells are above 1000 Bq l-1and 30% in the range 100-1000 Bq l-1.

How dangerous is radon in water?

Radon in water can be harmful to health in two ways. Firstly, by radon adsorption during and after water intake and second, by radon release from water into indoor air that we breath. Radon from the air is significantly more dangerous because our lungs are more sensitive to radon compared to the stomach. As we now know, radon breaks down over time into radioactive isotopes we call ‘daughters’ with the emission of alpha particles causing lung tissue damage. Thus, high levels of radon can lead to lung cancer. Radon causes about 1100 lung cancer cases per year in the UK according to PHE (Public Health England).

How can you measure radon in drinking water?

It is easy to measure radon in water. After ordering a measurement pack from our website, we will send a kit containing a special bottle with clear instructions on how to take the water sample. Once you have filled the bottle with water, send it back to us. The analysis results will be obtained within one week. All Radonova’s measurement methods are accredited by SWEDAC, which means that you can rely on our results.